Monday, 27 February 2017

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholas - A Review

So, this is what I have been dipping into for the last few weeks. The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen (subtitled 'Awesome Female Characters From Comic Book History') is one of those books that is exactly what the title says it is. What we have here is a decade by decade look at female comic book characters from the 1930's (with the likes of 'Sally the Sleuth' and 'Torchy Brown') right up to the present ('Deathface Ginny', 'Maika Halfwolf') with each decade getting a 'Hero Of The Decade', which gets, understandably, slightly more coverage.

To look at some of these 'comic heroines' you can't help but cringe at how bad some of them seem (Angel O'Day - A martial-arts trained detective who solves crime with her gorilla partner, being a prime example) but there are a lot that would be worth looking up at the next comic fair. There is, especially in the earlier decades a fair number of 'feisty female detectives' and 'heroine nurses' but these soon give way to more superhero types as time moves on.

Each Superwoman entry is accompanied by an illustration or comic panel (although, this being a preview copy, not all are available in my edition) which gives you an idea of the quality of artwork through the decades (and yes, a lot of them seem to be "how many curves can we give our heroine" and aimed as much at the titillation of male readers as anything).

I will admit that I didn't know of a lot of these Superwomen but I guess I can put that down to marketing and me not being 'target audience' I guess. I do. however, feel that this book has given me a better idea of the role of these heroes in the history of comics.

In short then, an interesting and informative look at the role of Superwomen in comic books, a very nicely put together volume and a must for those with an interest in the genre. More a book for dipping into than a cover to cover read but certainly one I am proud to have on my shelf.


Publication date May 2nd, 2017

Friday, 24 February 2017

Review Copies In The Post Today

 First up was this set of collectable cards that accompany the book (which is quite wonderful and be reviewed on here soon) from Quirk Books.
 Next through the letterbox was 'Hunger Makes The Wolf' from Angry Robot Books (which looks a whole lot of fun 😁)
And then came this pair from Gollancz - Sharp Ends is a collection of shorts from The World of the First Law and The Hatching is horror with spiders - what's not to love 😁

All will be reviewed on here in good time.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams - A Review

In the beginning was The Copper Cat, and it was good...very, very good. So good I wondered how Jen Williams could possibly improve on it.

And then The Ninth Rain landed on my doormat and my question was answered.

A new story, with new characters, in a new world and it is all good. There is history in this tale and it feels real.

There is a race of people, the Eborans, a kind of elf/vampire people who were the world's defenders until a disease depleted their numbers. The 'old enemy' is coming back though and who will save the day now?

One of the Eborans has left his city before the illness gets to him and he has teamed up with eccentric explorer and female Indiana Jones type Lady Vincenza ('Vintage' to her friends) to investigate Behemoths, mysterious artefacts left behind from previous invasions. The 'magic' side of the equation comes from Noon, a Fell-Witch, who can produce a magical fire. Unfortunately, Fell-Witches are despised so much they are hunted down and imprisoned in The Winnowry, from where non ever escape (except Noon, obviously, who flees on the back of a giant bat - I know, right, A Giant Bat!! How cool is that?!!).

Between the three of them they may be the only answer to the coming invasion.

As a novel The Ninth Rain is quite huge in scope. Both the world and the characters seem bigger than in The Copper Cat series and this only goes to show just how much Jen is growing as an author with every book she writes. Where she really stands out though, for me, is that she seems to put thought behind why things happen, it's never 'just because', so here are two examples.

In the Copper Cat series one of the main characters, Sebastian, was kicked out of the knighthood after being found to be having a relationship with a fellow knight. It is clear from the outset Sebastian is gay but when you consider that he joined the knights as a young boy and basically grew up in a male only environment it's not really that surprising. He doesn't come across as a 'token' figure.

The same thing happens in The Ninth Rain. Tormalin, the Eboran, as I've mentioned before is a kind of elf/vampire hybrid. His people live a long, long time (well, until the illness strikes). Now, Tor is by all accounts, a fine looking, hunky chap and one hell of a lover. You might think 'yeah, yeah, sexy vampire blah, blah, blah' but you'd be wrong, and it all comes down to the author putting in 'the reason'. And the reason is this - The Eborans are so long lived they dedicate a certain amount of their time (in Tor's case many years) studying the art of love making at The House of the Long Night. With this their transaction of awesome sex in exchange for blood makes a lot of sense.

It would be an understatement for me to say The Ninth Rain is a good book. It is better than anything Jen Williams has written before (and The Copper Cat books are among my favourites of all time). I cannot recommend this highly enough so go get yourself a copy and join Vintage, Tor and Noon in this exceptionally good adventure.

7/5 stars (my blog, my rules 😉)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Hekla's Children by James Brogden - A Review

Ten or so years ago four children disappeared while on a school outing. Only one returned. The teacher responsible for their safety, Nathan Brookes, although a suspect, was never charged with anything. Nobody knows what happened to the three other children.

Fast forward to the present day and Brookes is now working at an adventure centre in Wales and is convinced he has seen the three missing children. At the same time a body is discovered at the same spot where they vanished. It is dated at been 'Bronze Age' but...there are anomalies. To top things off the one child who returned shows up again with a simple message, "PUT HIM BACK"

I expected I would enjoy this novel as soon as I heard about it. One of the comparisons for it was Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood, which has long been a favourite of mine and I can happily agree with that. The feel of the 'ancient menace' coupled with the drifting between present and past makes for an atmospheric and unsettling read but a good one at that. As Horror Fiction goes this is a step up from James Herbert and Shaun Hutson and the Holdstock angle makes this book a bit special.

If there was one thing that didn't sit right for me it was later in the book when a main character who has crossed over to the other realm of 'Un' suddenly makes a 'lifestyle choice' with little more thought than 'oh well, let's give it a go'. For me that didn't sit right but that is only a small niggle and doesn't spoil an excellent read.

The realm of Un itself I found to be really interesting, a place where time between different areas of the land passes at different speeds, where you can find that returning to a place after a few days you can find that years have passed.

I have done my best not to drop spoilers here so a good bit of what I could have said I have left out for now - maybe another post when other folks have read it too.

For now though, enough to say an excellent read and an author I will be looking out for in the future


Thursday, 9 February 2017

More new books in the mail today

 First up in the mail today was this pair of Space Opera door stoppers. The author got in touch to ask if I would review them and, looking at them I'm rather glad I said yes.
And then there was this from Titan Books, 'combining the surrealist horror of Joe Hill's Horns with the mythical fantasy of Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood' - I mean, seriously, how can you go wrong with that.

Both books have excellent cover rec's from authors I trust so it goes without saying I am looking forward to all three.

Monday, 6 February 2017

New books in the post today

Two books in the mail today from two of my favourite authors of recent years. Both are starting new series in fresh new worlds and both will be reviewed on here in the near future.
All I will say for now is that if you haven't read either of these authors before then I highly recommend you do now.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Graham Masterton and Me - A Reflection (of sorts)

Many moons ago (I was still at school so I'm guessing it would have been around 1982/3) a friend of mine offered to lend me some of his brothers books. I'd read a bit of horror before, mainly James Herbert and Shaun Hutson but he gave me a book by an author I'd never heard of before. That author was Graham Masterton and the book was The Manitou. I can safely say that The Manitou was the first book that I found really scary and it got me hooked on the works of Graham Masterton .

I don't remember the exact scene that gave me the chills but I remember the night itself well. My mum and dad had gone out for the evening, my sister was out at a friend's and it was just me and our dog, Clover, in the house. I sat in the corner in the rocking chair with just the standard lamp to illuminate the pages and read...and read...and read. I was totally wrapped up in the story until some little noise made me jump, made the dog jump and I looked up! The rest of the room was pitch dark and...was that something over there in the corner, just on the edge of sight? (It wasn't, obviously, but for that few, brief moments it could well have been). No horror author had bothered me like that before - and I enjoyed the scare.

From then on I tried to get hold of any Masterton novels I could. They were creepy, gory, scary tales in the main but also clever at times. I loved the Night Warriors series, featuring a bunch of heroes that fought demons and evil in the world of dreams. I eagerly awaited the next in the Manitou series - and they never disappointed. The one off stories (of which there were many) often delved into the demons and spirits of history, not the 'same old, same old' that a lot of horror writers of the time seemed to be churning out.

Skip ahead a few years and 'younger' Andy was in hospital for day surgery to fix a broken nose. Obviously I had to take a book with me to pass the time until the op and it just happened that there was a new paperback available guessed it Graham Masterton. That book was 'The Devils of D-Day'. I finished it in that one day and I don't know if the pre surgery meds had anything to do with it (they probably did) but that remains to this day the most visual of his novels for me, the one that feels more like I lived the story than read it.

With Masterton I felt like it was an above average chance that the next novel would be more late nights and a certain pause before turning the lights off. Not all were brilliant but for the most part they were just what this horror fan needed.

A lot of the earlier books are now harder to get hold of but thankfully his publisher, Head of Zeus, are making a whole bunch of GM's earlier novels available including 'The Heirloom' (featuring what can only be described as a haunted/possessed chair), 'Ritual', 'Black Angel', 'Prey' and The Sphinx (which I've been wanting to re-read for as long as I can remember). These will be available from 1st June 2017 and I, for one, am certainly looking forward to revisiting them.

So, I guess I've been reading Masterton for 34 years or more now and I like to think that his brand of horror, demons from history and folklore, has influenced the path my reading has followed as far as the horror branch has gone.

Thank you Mr. Masterton, and long may your story telling continue